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A Leslie Knope in a World of Liz Lemons

On how women are pushed to identify with Liz Lemon, but specifically with her awkward characteristics rather than with her success.

To be likeable as a woman, it seems, you have to ensure that you're also non-threatening and slightly useless. You have to point loudly to your "flaws," but not your, you know, actual flaws. Perpetually single? It's definitely because you sometimes eat too much cheese stew, and not because you have never figured out how to actually be a caring, intimate, ambitious partner.

Heaven forbid you, like Leslie Knope, admit that sometimes you even inspire yourself. Or enjoy waffles covered in whipped cream occasionally, but rarely with the kind of frenetic gusto that Liz Lemon demonstrates while shoving a sandwich into her mouth and cry-whining "I CAN HAVE IT ALL!"

Leslie's flaws — like that she's a borderline hoarder and that she sometimes is so passionate about issues that it's "like arguing with the sun," as her husband tells her at one point—are less cute. They are real and they are difficult and they are the kind of flaws that women rarely play up. They are the flaws that get women pegged as "bossy" or "bitchy" in the workplace. They are the flaws that we desperately try to distract from as we "complain" that we sometimes (adorably!!!) eat the entire tub of Just One Of The Guys Full Fat Because We're So Bad Ice Cream in one sitting.


I've never actually watched Parks & Rec (I know), but I like this piece. I love Liz Lemon for being her imperfect self, but at a certain point it seemed like she was defined by her imperfections. (To be fair, I also didn't finish watching 30 Rock. I really suck at television.) And while I don't think we should pit the two characters against each other, I don't think that's what the author here is doing—rather, she's critiquing a society that encourages women to identify with one over the other.

Also, a woman at work has the top image on her cubicle wall. I want to be her when I grow up (even though she's only two months older than I am), so I'm taking this as an indicator of Leslie Knope's awesomeness.

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